Trees struggle when forests become too small | 7/18/2018 | Staff
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As forest areas shrink and become fragmented, many tree species face problems. They often rely on animals that can no longer disperse their seeds effectively.

Biodiversity loss is the biggest environmental problem we face today, according to a UN report that came out last year. One of the main reasons is that large forest areas are disappearing due to human impact.

Lack - Forests - Trees - Becomes - Problem

A lack of connected forests can prevent trees from multiplying efficiently. The more fragmented the forest becomes, the greater the problem for the trees.

"Forest fragmentation has a negative effect on seed dispersal by means of animals," says Emma-Liina Marjakangas at the Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics (CBD) in NTNU's Department of Biology.

Doctorate - Marjakangas - Tree - Species - Species

While working on her doctorate, Marjakangas studied 1424 tree species and 407 animal species from 912 sites in forested areas along the Atlantic coast of South America.

The data includes both known networks and probable networks, based in part on what species can be found in the same place.

Marjakangas - Goal - Species - Coast - South

Marjakangas' goal was to look at which species are found along the coast of South America, and to find relationships between these species.

Climate is the main reason for the variation between the different areas, with 26 percent of variations attributable to climate causes. The use of areas around the forest areas accounts for almost as much variation.

Fragmentation - Percent - Variation - Percentage - Increase

Forest fragmentation can explain about 11 percent of the total variation. But this percentage increase as the forest becomes more fragmented.

"When connected forest areas shrink, this has a greater effect on seed dispersal than the edge effects of various other activities around the forest," says Marjakangas.

Species - Interaction - Animals - Seeds - Birds

Many tree species live in interaction with animals that spread their seeds. Birds and large mammals in particular often contribute significantly to seed dispersal. In return, the trees contribute food, housing and hiding places for the animals.

Large forests often have room for more...
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